Archive for the ‘Caro’ Category

30 Oct 2012

1. No Number 1 Controversy This Time

Let’s get this out of the way first: yes, Serena won two majors and the Year End Championships, Azarenka only one major. But there can be little argument that week in and week out, Azarenka was the best player on tour.

Azarenka’s transformation has not been a drastic one. She has always looked a player capable of great things. Restraint, both in her attitude and her disposition in rallies has given her the extra 2% to push on to the next echelon of the game. In the past, it has been easy for us to build a narrative on why Azarenka has not done better. Her poor attitude. Her health. Her ability to come blazing out of the gates in big matches only to have those same flames consume her late into the match.

To start, the poor attitude seems all but gone. There is a fine line between cockiness and extreme confidence, and most would argue that Azarenka, at one point, fell on the wrong side of the coin. Often letting the little things get to her and being poor in losing, it looked like the type of thing that would hold her back. Suddenly those cries of frustrations have turned into healthy, self motivating leg slaps. Hair whips of determination and under the breath grunts “keep going”. It’s been turned inward in a positive way.

Her game has developed in a similar way. Vika at times appeared a ball basher who simply overwhelmed opponents with her weight of shot, with bouts of inconsistency. She has learned great constraint on the forehand, both in her regular, powerful topspin shot as well as in her more defensive, spinning forehand. When the ball isn’t in the greatest position for her, she’s become much better at finding ways to spin the ball cross court to gain time, instead of simply trying to rip it and hope for the best. Combining this with great movement, she can quickly get back into points and get back on top. She knows how to build points and she knows how to finish them off – and it’s a treat to see.

2. Serena is Here To Stay

For a time, it was hard to know if Serena would ever play tennis again. With a new lease on life, Serena is looking as fit and as calm as ever, a truly deadly combination. Wimbledon was a stroll in the park, and the US Open was straight forward outside of a very difficult final. The Year End Championship fell under a similar theme. She plans to train in Paris with her coach over the offseason, a first for her, and likely has her eye on doing another “Serena slam” and winning all four major titles in a row.

I’ve heard it noted several times, and it is hard to disagree. While Serena is “old” in tennis terms at 31, the time that she has missed through out her career, including recently, may help to considerably lengthen her career. Many players expire around 30 because after 15 years of serious grind, they burn out mentally, their bodies fall apart, and their endurance goes. None of these appear to be an issue for Serena, and she is so fit and with such natural power, it is difficult to see her dropping off any time within three to five years. Mind blowing stuff.

3. Another Year of Stability Should Await in 2013

Let’s be honest. At times, the past few years have been difficult for the WTA. We diehards don’t so much mind the top ranking being tossed around, or top 20 players winning major titles. However, sadly, it has been difficult to justify the validity of a tour with a number 1 without a slam and players coming from nowhere to win big titles. With Azarenka, Sharapova and Serena taking home all majors this year, it would be difficult to bet against them splitting all four between them again next year. While players such as Radwanska, Kvitova and Li Na will always have a chance against them, it is hard to see one of the big three not topping them in a final (much like the Williams/Radwanska Wimbledon final). A WTA “big four” sounds appealing to match it up to the ATP side of things, but in truth it is a “big three” who should continue raking in big trophies in 2013.

4. Castle Defenders

While a look at the final eight in Istanbul lends itself to a powerful baseline style, three names pop out: Radwanska, Kerber, and Errani. These players tend to be in tough against the top, hard hitting ladies (they went a combined 1-6 versus the other five, not including Stosur) they have the consistency, fitness, and creativity to consistently outmatch players outside of the top 10. I don’t like the term counterpuncher for any of them: neither of them prey on pace and turn it back on their opponent. Kerber prefers players with pace, but she specifically prefers players that open up the court for her to take advantage of – she doesn’t particularly reverse pace back on an opponent. Radwanska is an incredibly creative, instinctual player, likely with the greatest drop shot I have ever seen, men or women. And at a mere 5’5, Errani can run for days, and uses incredible wrist strength to command a longer handled racquet to cope with pace and push opponents back.

On Twitter I saw several people cry out against the Errani/Radwanska match as terrible matchup, expecting a boring match. While neither are big hitters, they have widely different styles and produced one of the matches of the year. While they may never solve the power puzzles in the way a player like Hingis managed to do, embrace and enjoy these players for all that they offer to the game.

5. The Future of Power

With that being said, it is very clear that the future of the WTA looks very much to favour those with large amounts of power, and there is likely to be more Kvitova winning Wimbledon coming out parties than Schiavone late but great Roland Garros wins. With a big three playing this well, the only way to beat them appears to be beating them at their own game, something Azarenka nearly did at the US Open this year. It’s not just the results, but the quality of results that these three tend to get against players hoping to use creativity, defense or counterpunching – it is very rarely close outside of clay.
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6. Caroline Wozniacki

Posted by Brodie under: Caro, SW19

20 Jun 2011

Weapons: Crazy consistent, mentally solid as a rock
Weaknesses: Lacking the power to really break through on grass

I’m sure some people will cry “no weapons!” and others will be disappointed that I’ve stuck the number 1 seed at the 6th spot. Regardless of what you think, you always have to give Caro a legitimate shot at the final 8. She works hard through the year, plays consistent tennis and earns a high ranking which in turn lets her cruise through a few rounds at slams. The fact of the matter, however, is that if Caro is going to break through and win a slam eventually, this isn’t going to be the first one.

Incoming

Posted by Brodie under: Bepa, Caro, Doha

26 Feb 2011

Vera Zvonareva Doha

There’s something special about bug-eyed pictures of athletes. Maybe it’s because I’m a baseball fan, and you see a lot of them there… but there’s something really special about that “oh yeah, that’s the ball I was looking for” look.

It might be Sergey’s silent, steely resolve, it might be a natural maturation, it might just be a new self-belief… whatever it is, the resurgence of Vera over the past year has been an impressive one. Thursday, she was pushed to three hours by Dani, a player who had just beaten her in Pattaya not long ago, and pulled out the third set after being down a break in the third. The next day, she was pushed to the limit once again by JJ. Down 0-40 at 4-4 in the third set on her serve, she flipped the switch and absolutely crushed her way to taking the final set 6-4. Boom. In days gone by, a break or 0-40 late in the third set against a good opponent likely would have done Bepa (and her racquet) in. Now it’s nothing but determination and grit.

Despite what seems like limitless success and numerous finals for the Russian, she hasn’t won a title in a year. Number 3 in the world? That just isn’t right.

Unfortunately, in the final, Vera will be running into the brick wall that is the world number 1, who is having another superb week. The good news for Vera is that Caro has been playing for two straight weeks, and might be a little tired. I really think it should be a good final, and I would not be surprised to see it go three. Regardless, it’s been a fantastic start to the year for both ladies.

Any Given Fortnight

Posted by Brodie under: Caro, Sydney

11 Jan 2011

If there’s anything these two opening weeks have told us about the WTA, it’s what we already know: we know nothing.

Wait, what?

December 31st, 2010, I easily would have taken Caro, Vera, and Sam for their shot at AO semi berths (or better). Now? Well, I’m not too sure. Caro looks physically weak, uneasy, and distracted. Sam, though I haven’t seen her, has had strange results against opponents she should beat. Vera can be excused, after winning Hong Kong, and Flavia isn’t exactly a pushover… but how to know?

It’s a very different January for the WTA compared to the ATP, no? A few big names play some small events, others play exos, but generally you don’t know what to expect for the men. For the WTA, there’s Sydney, a Premier event that tends to attract quite a few big names. Ironically, those big names have fallen pretty fast.

Should we start frantically predicting a Belgian in the final? Maybe. Kim is always prone to a wonky day, but both Kim and Justine look solid early on and the absence or Serena doesn’t hurt. Overall, I think the WTA side of things is going to be hella exciting come AO. Top seeds are going to be up against some solid players very early on, and there should be some fantastically close matches early on. I’ve always been under the impression that the best matches of the first week of slams are on the WTA side, and the best matches of the second week are on the ATP side, and I think this should really ring true for AO. Keep an eye on those draws, they should get messy.

I’ll have a full draw run down of both the men and women once they’re posted. Looking forward to it, as they’re going to be hella important with no Serena and Sod as the fourth seed on the men’s side.

14 Oct 2010

Caro, Nole and Rafa

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. Brodie has a lot of work right now, so we thought I could help and give the blog some love. There’s a lot of catch up to do, so let’s get this thing started.

First of all, congrats to Caro for winning Beijing and being the new No 1. Although I’m not her biggest fan, it is deserved. She’s been the most consistent WTA player and it paid off. Sunshine hasn’t lost a final since IW. That’s saying a lot, right? Also, I’m happy for Bepa. Great results in the 2nd half of the season.

Next, I’m glad Nole got to defend his title in Beijing. I think the USO was a turning point so I’m hoping for good things to happen for the remaining of the season. Last but not least, Rafa won the 7th title of the season in Tokyo after beating Monfils in straight sets. What else can I say? I hope you have energy left for London.

Next stop, Shanghai!

Let The Good Times Roll

Posted by Brodie under: Ana, Beijing, Caro

8 Oct 2010

New number 1. Former number 1. A match made in heaven. Or my dreams. Or Beijing. Or my pants. Not important.

I need to start with an apology. Being back at school, having a ton of stuff to do, and then trying to watch tennis when I’m supposed to be getting precious (often little) sleep is a hell of a task to ask. So I haven’t watched much tennis. I’m pretty excited for tennis to return to Europe and a much more manageable time difference for me.

Anyway, it was damn good to see Ana playing like that. I think it would be easy to say that “she hasn’t been playing aggressively and she finally is.” I think she’s been playing aggressively at points, and missing, and then holding back, at least for a lot of this season. It’s caused frustration and then caution. Now she’e letting it rip and earlier, and it’s working.

Still a tough task when you come up against the brick wall that is Caro, and on such a fast surface you’ve got to let it rip early or else she’ll just simply outlast you. Ana’s serve wasn’t particularly magical either, which didn’t exactly help.

Regardless, Ana has put herself in position to be seeded come the AO and you’ve got to feel that if she can get some actual consistency going (which seems more and more likely) that it might actually be a slam worth looking forward to if you’re an Ana fan. All aboard!

30 Sep 2010

“I missed you so much.” “I’m so sorry baby, I’m glad I’ve got you back.” “Let’s make out.”

Wait? Aga retired? Down 5-0? Crap. I believe it was because the entertainment level of the match quite literally bored her to tears. But you didn’t hear it from me.

Caro, Vika, Elena and Franny are your semifinalists in Tokyo.

Lady Evil

Posted by Brodie under: Caro, Masha, USO

6 Sep 2010

It’s good to be back.

If Caro was going to beat Masha, she was going to need some heart, consistency, and a little bit of luck, and boy did she get all of those.

Caro got balls back, made few errors, showed her underrated ability to rally with big hitters, and even hit some winners and took some chances. It all equalled a frustrated and confused Masha and a crusing Caro.

To be honest, I was a bit confused by Masha’s game plan, specifrically in the second set. She wasn’t interested in getting into rallies with Caro, specifically when returning, which meant going for psycho winners off the return and making a lot of errors. When she did get into rallies, she seemed passive and didn’t attempt to open up holes, or expose the holes in Caro’s game (specifically the movement). Sure, there were some sweet drop shots and good shots, but on the whole it wasn’t going to be enough.

One key to take out of this match is Caro’s improved strength, and if you want to call it that, power. I’m not talking big serves, or flat, huge winners. I’m talking about the ability to stay with big hitters and not get flattened or blown off the court by the player on the other side of the net. A year ago, it was clear that Caro could not play her game against the monster shots of Kim. Today she showed that she could keep up and play her game against Masha. Worth noting.

All in all, a disappointing result for Masha who made a lot of goofy errors and had once again, a few too many double faults (nine total) one of which gave the key break in the second. I really thought she was going to win this match and go deep.

Anyway, I’m back guys, and I’m giving Caro the bump, obviously. Caro/Domi and Bepa/Kaia are the four players left in this half… in other words, one of them is making the final. Wut.

From Yale To New York

Posted by Ana under: Caro, New Haven

29 Aug 2010

caro new haven

Caro strikes again. She beat Nads in three sets to clinch her 3rd straight New Haven title. It’s been a two good weeks for the girl. Montreal, NH and US Open series champion.

What can I say? I am not a fan of the moonball thing but she’s trying to play more aggressively.
Also, one word. Consistency. Do I need to say anything else? I really think Brodie’s post about her sums things up pretty well. So, can people finally stop with this “Caro’s seeded #1 for the US Open. OMG.” thing? Yes? Thank you.

In other news, Stakhovsky won the men’s final. He had to go through T-Rob and Bags. Second title of the season and highest career ranking. Funny thing about him… 4 ATP Tour Finals, 4 titles. Not a bad stat, right?

A Little Love, Please

Posted by Brodie under: Caro, Montreal

23 Aug 2010

It’s been a long time coming.

Last year, Caro’s career exploded. Capped off by the USO final berth, Caro was no longer the little girl winning the tiny tournaments. She had made the big time. And while the fans (and young males…) came in support, so did the haters.

Much as been made about Caro being the top seed going into the USO (she’s still not the number 1 in the world…) but Caro finally has her first “Tier I” championship (or Premier 5, in this case).

It was a weird day of tennis. Caro and Sveta got off to a slow start in the morning, and Caro won the match on the back of consistency. Kuz had real timing troubles, and sitting back in the second set eventually burned her when she made a bunch of silly errors to be broken late in the set.

Vika just baaaarely lost the first set… and then had to retire early in the second due to a blister on her foot. Props to her for realizing that she was going to be screwed if she had to play again later the day. And way to thicken the plot heading into the USO.

The final was equally weird. Bepa couldn’t buy a first serve (no seriously, it was bad) and Caro just did her Caro thing. Bepa couldn’t find the range, the serve, the consistency… you name it. And then it was over, and the haters were left with nothing but a gigantic golden smile to suck on.

Listen, I get the point. Caro plays low risk tennis, doesn’t hit a ton of winners, has a sub par net game, and collects a ton of wins. But doesn’t something need to be said for consistent tennis?

In her last three matches, Flavia, Sveta, and Bepa, Caro pushed balls out wide, played great defense, and yes, hit winners when the oppurtunity was there. Not to mention, she showed some pretty solid power, crushing second serves and at times overwhelming opponents from both wings.

If consistent tennis can’t win in today’s WTA… what can?

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap